Note: Post written by Rasmus Brygger, President of the free market-oriented Liberal Alliance Youth in Denmark.
Every society contains losers. In the end, it will always be your personal responsibility to succeed in life, but if the surrounding culture removes incentives to do so, it will effectively produce losers. I am sure American politicians and media alike are thrilled when they get the chance to tell how American culture – whether it be in regards to gun crime, a failed health sector, missing social programs etc. – are producing failures in your country. The presented solution always stands clear: A larger, more nurturing state so we can avoid this negative product of society and instead, with a welfare state, solve this problem through equality and alleged solidarity.
The issue with that solution, though, is that it creates a new and even bigger problem: Massive redistribution of wealth incentivizes laziness and self-pity. If leftist politicians succeed in this goal, turning your country into their concept of utopia – the Scandinavian welfare state – what would that produce?
We have two personas, based on real people, which are very indicative of the effects of a welfare state the size of Denmark’s. These two people have drawn media attention to the serious side effects of a generous welfare state, but while many people are outraged, the politicians have yet to offer any solutions.
Carina the Pauper
Carina – in her 30s – is a single mother who feels exploited and abused by society. As a self-described poor and mistreated person in the welfare state, she was chosen by a socialist MP to show how miserable the conditions of the unemployed were and why “the rich” should contribute even more to her cause. Carina’s budget revealed, however, that in the last 20 years she has received no less than $2,700 after taxes each month from governmental programs. After paying for quite a spectacular apartment in central Copenhagen, the dog food, cigarettes, cable TV, internet, phone and her son´s soccer practice she still had $850 left for herself and her son.
Many full-time employees quickly realized in light of the public debate that followed that they received about the same amount of money, or even less, as Carina. Even worse, they realized that Carina was not the only one receiving unemployment benefits in such comfortable economic circumstances. She actually receives the minimum amount given to single mothers.
Unlike Carina, Robert does not feel self-pity. Robert has three unfinished college degrees (in economics, Chinese and philosophy) and openly refuses any “demeaning jobs” like working in a fast-food restaurant. The 45-year-old man is collecting unemployment checks and, it appears, is waiting for the right job to descend from Heaven. He is doing quite well on welfare, and while admitting that he is lazy, does not think the government has the right to put him to work. And he is right – the government cannot force him to work. It could incentivize him to do so, through elimination of these costly public programs.
The attitudes of Robert and Carina are, completely disrespectful of people around the world with real financial problems. We in wealthy nations call ourselves “poor” simply because we have less than our neighbors or refuse to work while other people pay our expenses. Yet people in other nations who starve daily would have a different perspective.
These two cases might seem extreme – and they are! Not everyone in Denmark is so blatant about their laziness or self-pity, but it is still a major problem. 2.2 million people of working age out of a total Danish population of 5.5 million people are dependent on public financial support. Some are on pensions, or are disabled, but it is interesting to note how the country with the largest public sector in the world relative to population also has a record low ratio of working people to those dependent on government support. Even worse, a large portion of low-income jobs (85,000 out of the total private workforce of 1.9 mil.) pay around the same as unemployment benefits.
It is hard to say exactly how many people in Denmark live and think like Robert and Carina, but the fact is that we are slowly killing off all low paying jobs, since high unemployment benefits creates a pressure towards higher wages, completely destroying the competiveness of these kind of jobs. It is therefore no coincidence that Denmark — according to the Swiss bank UBS – has the second-highest wages in the world and at the same time is losing massive numbers of jobs, not only to the far east, but to our more industrial and hardworking European neighbors.
Instead of helping those in need, the Scandinavian welfare state has created a whole new class of welfare recipients. Robert and Carina are not just people, but two different products from a failed system that punishes hard work while rewarding self-pity and laziness.
Rasmus Brygger is the National President of Liberal Alliance Youth, a youth organization in extension of the Danish free market party, Liberal Alliance.